Acts is the history of the development of the first churches and the spread of Christianity. For about the first decade after the death of Jesus, Christianity existed almost exclusively among the Jews. The first part of Acts portrays the meaning of Christianity, how it was shared, and how it was lived out in a closed community of Jews whose common culture was based on the Old Testament.
After about the first decade, Christianity started growing in other people groups and cultures having beliefs and understandings quite different from the Jews. Much of Acts deals with keeping a consistent and complete Gospel message, how it is shared, and how it is lived out in different people groups and cultures. The lessons learned from Acts are applicable to modern Christians and churches, and are also essential when trying to understand Paul’s letters (which comprise much of the New Testament).
A purpose of the Acts Series is to tell some of the information of the book of Acts from different vantage points. Luke said that he made a careful investigation of the facts before writing Luke and Acts. His three primary sources of information probably were: his own experiences, written sources, and talking to people who were personally involved. Acts Series illustrates the stories that he might have heard from a dozen of the characters featured in his book of Acts.
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The book of Acts abruptly ends with Paul possibly still being imprisoned in Rome. What happens then?
There is no direct information in the Bible about what happens to Paul after the end of Acts. From 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and church traditions, many scholars have surmised that Paul was released from prison after two years, then actively evangelized for another five years before being martyred by Nero.
This may the case, but there is still a little mystery about the cause of his death even if it is later. Apparently, the Christians were relatively small in number, were being peaceful, and were not doing anything illegal. Why would the Roman rulers have been intent on executing Paul?
Church historians seldom talk enough about the First Jewish-Roman War, which is surprising since the Romans probably placed the Jews and Christians in the same category. The war began in 66 AD over disputes concerning taxation and Roman incursion into the Temple. The conflict quickly escalated, and the Romans sent Vespasian and Titus to quell the rebellion. They used sieges and force to slowly take control of all Judea. While Jerusalem held out for many months, it was finally captured in 70 AD, when the Temple was destroyed. Isn’t it possible that the Christian leaders—including Paul—got identified with this rebellion?
In this episode, Theophilus surmises there may be only about 10,000 Christians in 62 AD. This is a much lower number than most modern Christians think because of there being 5,000 a short time after Jesus’ death. However, at the time of Paul’s jailing, consider how many churches were mentioned in the Bible, and how many members each church had. Unfortunately, we have no hard information about the numbers of Christians existing as the church grew.
Luke – Troy Powell
Peter – Francis Fuselier
Stephen – Jonny Gallegos
Philip – David Smith
Barnabas – Bob Hess
John Mark – Matthew Oakley
Holy Spirit – Garrett Schenck
Paul – Brian Shoop
James – Andy Axewell
Silas – Tony Schneider
Timothy – Paul Christian
Tabitha – Allyn Carrell
Lydia – Gayla Gower
Priscilla – La’Netia D. Taylor
Theophilus – Michael Page